1. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    Mystery Character Problems

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Malisky, Feb 2, 2015.

    So, I've been having this headache for the past month trying to figure out (trial and error wise) my main characters... well character. The problem is a consequense of the plot really. Inavoidable from my point of view. I'll try to explain as much as I can.

    The plot is a crime - mystery in its core, but the mood is a mix of things (meaning that it will have it's dramatic moments but it's humorous moments as well) depending on the situation and interactions of the characters. Most of the characters will be kind of ballanced in their signifficance in the story because offcourse I want many suspects and not dead give-aways. And I'm also a fan of psychology so I invest on my characters as much as I invest on a good plot and storytelling. By the way, third person that is.

    The problem is that of my "main" character. He is a person who is hiding his true identity due to reach his goal and also the avenger. So in order to find his culprit he ends up climbing up sectas into the mob world, but he is also an informant (against his will) to the police. He also plays on double table as an informant to two different mob organizations that are on the brink of war. So he is something like a spy with his own secret agenda. A master manipulator. But at some point, as the plot unfolds and I'm starting to reveal some of his backstory in order to justify his position (also lead to him), I have to describe a huge transformation he's been through.

    Short backstory long: A young misfit happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, something really dramatic happens and he ends up psychologically traumatised, but really messed up. He is unable to communicate at all for sometime (I think the right condition is described as catatonia), until he meets someone who helps him reform himself, but this is a process that takes time. Atleast a year. And even so, his environment is also changed after the shocking event so, he can't turn back as to being the person he used to be. He is consumed by revenge. He gets his plan into action about five years after the dramatic incident.

    So, as you can see, I have to describe the transformation from a) the man he is today (a developing character as he tries to reach the top) b) to the naive, cocky youngster he used to be c) to the traumatised person he got to be d) to the reformed person that ended up an avenger. Another nice way of putting it is transforming a victim into a villain.

    What I am afraid of, is that maybe this complexity of his character might make him feel "fake" and "convenient" to the reader. I've tried searching for refferences or books that deal with likewise character developments, but found none. The characters usually tend to grow through their stories but they don't change. Meaning, Harry Poter from book 1, is the same as Harry in book 7. His ideals, his personality stays the same. Can you suggest any ideas or refferences for that matter?

    Another important issue is the way that I'm revealing the backstory. In order not to make it obvious that he is the person we are looking for, his backstory starts unfolding as hints from a police investigation that are under his tracks. Although he works as an informant for them, they don't really know everything there is to know about him. So, that has as a result that most of the backstory should be revealed close to the end and in a non-flash-back way as possible. This actually is a personal prefference. I don't like straight-forward flash backs. I'm thinking that it will manifest in a confession maybe of some sort, when he finally loses his cover. Although I'd love to hear some ideas on that matter. How would you handle the flash backs?

    Sorry for the long post and I thank you if you read it, even more if you take the time to think about it and answer it. I know it's a long one but I can't think of shorter way to express it. From my POV, I'm stepping on a very experimental ground with this story, because I never read anything like what I'm writting and this makes me more enthousiastic about it but also very much uneasy. Mostly I've been trying to solve riddles than I actually write so I want this so badly to work.

    Thank you again.
     
  2. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    Hey Malisky,

    The problem is that of my "main" character... I have to describe a huge transformation he's been through.

    I wouldn't call this so much of a 'problem' as the central theme of your book (and a damn good one, in my opinion). Transformations can be subtle and that's hard to convey/get the balance of, but from the sounds of it you have some really key events that lead to his progressing change so be encouraged - you'll find a way to make it work.

    he ends up psychologically traumatised, but really messed up. He is unable to communicate at all for sometime (I think the right condition is described as catatonia),

    From what I know of it, catatonia affects motion as well as speech - it's a bit like locked-in syndrome. Maybe 'selective mutism' might be a better fit as the person is still compus-mentus but due to psychological trauma they are resisting communicating vocally etc. Just a thought.

    He is consumed by revenge. He gets his plan into action about five years after the dramatic incident.

    To me, this seems like a natural break in your plot at which point (when reached) you might decide to hit the brakes and insert a 'five years earlier', writing a few chapters/third of a book about an 'unknown' character and all the events surrounding the disastrous psychological trauma/revenge plotting (which, dun dun dunnnn turns out to be our hero). That might be a way round the whole flashbacks thing?

    So, as you can see, I have to describe the transformation from a) the man he is today (a developing character as he tries to reach the top) b) to the naive, cocky youngster he used to be c) to the traumatised person he got to be d) to the reformed person that ended up an avenger.
    One thing that occurs to me is you could use three different variations of the same name, to represent each stage. It might be corny but it could be interesting to play with the three 'characters' of his development as individual people, running their plot lines around/alongside each other

    Another nice way of putting it is transforming a victim into a villain.
    I just, in general, love this premise. If you decide things get too complex you've still got a great straight-forward plotline which could have lots of interesting elements and experimental areas in it. Just work out how best to convey your story and decide if this is the right one to be attempting this particular method with

    What I am afraid of, is that maybe this complexity of his character might make him feel "fake" and "convenient" to the reader.

    People are complicated, especially ones who have been through circumstances that leave them completely screwed up. I think readers are more resistant to straight forward, achingly plain and boring characters - the screwed up ones are interesting!
    I'm not sure what you mean by 'convenient' exactly, but I think that's more of a writing issue than a character flaw (ie you can get round it if you're careful enough)

    I've tried searching for refferences or books that deal with likewise character developments, but found none. The characters usually tend to grow through their stories but they don't change. Meaning, Harry Poter from book 1, is the same as Harry in book 7. His ideals, his personality stays the same.
    Having read the books, I'd disagree that Harry Potter is an example of someone who doesn't change through their series, although I get what you're saying. He isn't dramatically different, but he matures and grows and becomes embittered etc which is all part of character development.
    From your perspective, I can't think of any plots where a character turns from night to day, either. I can think of loads but they all seem to cover a short period of a character's life so the changes are nuanced, which is really interesting but is probably a sign I should broaden my reading selections...

    I don't like straight-forward flash backs. I'm thinking that it will manifest in a confession maybe of some sort, when he finally loses his cover.
    I'm not a fan of flash backs either but it is soooo hard to do info-dump monologues without boring the pants off your reader (or so I find anyway)
    If you can stack 'dominos' of facts throughout your book and have them all come crashing together for the big reveal at the end, that might be a way round it (I'm playing with the idea of minichapters so maybe you could do that, tracing the events that mark his journey to becoming a villain)

    How would you handle the flash backs?
    If I was putting flash backs in, I would do so via minichapters as already mentioned, or I would write 1 chapter in the currently time line, then next in the past etc etc until I reached the end.


    I know it's a long one but I can't think of shorter way to express it.
    I couldn't think of a shorter way to answer, so I feel your pain!

    I never read anything like what I'm writting and this makes me more enthousiastic about it but also very much uneasy.
    Uneasy is good - just don't tip off the edge and fall into bone-shattering fear. It's such a good idea and sounds really fun so if you feel brave, go for it! I think the key to this will be planning planning planning the hell out of it (I know I'd have to, to keep all my lines from getting crossed!)
    Enthusiastic is even better - that will come out in your writing and will make it all the better!

    Good luck x
     
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  3. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    RachHP, thank you for your insight. :)

    Your opinions have been helpful and motivational as well. I see we share some common tastes on character matters.

    I've already introduced my MC before reading your comment and funny thing is, that I mostly ended up following your comments on the matter. Except for the minichapters but I'm not there yet. I never read something with minichapters (or maybe I have and I didn't realise it's them) so I don't know how this works, although I get the general picture by definition. Gonna look into it. Back to writing now! I'm in a good roll! :D

    Thank you!
     
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  4. Ms. DiAnonyma
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    Ms. DiAnonyma Active Member

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    Neat idea!

    Yeah, looks like great advice. Though if you were looking for another way to deal with the past (and especially the contrast between the different stages), maybe the use of outside characters would be a good idea? I don't know if you're including any "significant other"s for your protagonist (would probably further complicate matters...), but somebody recognizing him years later could add interesting perspective. Just a thought, best of luck and perseverance with your writing!
     
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  5. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    Thank you for your reply. Yes, there will be at least 2 people that recognize him from the past. Gotta keep the story moving people! Thanks again for the motivational feedback. :)
     

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